Definition of pilot in English:



  • 1A person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft.

    ‘a strike by local airline pilots’
    as modifier ‘the crash had been due to pilot error’
    • ‘Other members of the wing also approached the group commander about the pilot's inappropriate flying.’
    • ‘Ted and Brett are both west coastbased airline pilots as well as aviation enthusiasts.’
    • ‘As outlined, the cost and length of training for UAV operators are substantially less than they are for pilots of manned aircraft.’
    • ‘In addition to its important role as a simulator for pilots, model aircraft flying is staking a claim to serious sports status.’
    • ‘Jann has posted a collection of conversations between airline pilots and airport control towers.’
    • ‘During that year, the pilot of an aircraft flying over the ice cap spotted a downed aircraft.’
    • ‘The reason given for this crash was that the aircraft flew into the wake of another aircraft, and the pilot lost control of it.’
    • ‘This will increase its operational effectiveness and reduce potential risks to the aircraft and pilots.’
    • ‘He compared the procedure to that followed by an airline pilot preparing an aircraft for landing.’
    • ‘See and avoid is one of the most basic responsibilities of a pilot operating an aircraft.’
    • ‘At its most basic, those tools are instructor pilots, other experienced pilots, and aircraft sorties.’
    • ‘In turn, the hanging undercarriage made it even more difficult for the pilot to control the aircraft.’
    • ‘A major factor in this regard was the lack of any previous experience on the part of the pilots in flying jet aircraft.’
    • ‘The vectoring controls can be operated manually by the pilot or automatically by the flight control system.’
    • ‘The new aircraft will also allow pilots to increase their flying hours from 150 to 200 because of the aircraft's higher operating ceiling.’
    • ‘These include, first, the status of Air Crews Control pilots and Flight Attendants working for Impulse.’
    • ‘Air Combat Command uses the aircraft as a companion trainer to provide pilots additional flying time at a lower cost.’
    • ‘The following is an account of an exchange between airline pilots and a control tower.’
    • ‘Both pilots have been flying aircraft for over 15 years, and neither had ever seen anything like this.’
    • ‘The school opened in January 2002 for C - 141 pilots, loadmasters and flight engineers.’
    airman, airwoman, flyer, aeronaut
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A person with expert local knowledge qualified to take charge of a ship entering or leaving a harbour.
      • ‘Not only did it boost their speed, but the glow of the engines also momentarily blinded the pilot of the other ship.’
      • ‘The additional flying is to maintain and hone the night flying skills of our ship's pilots and aircrew.’
      • ‘Ships entering Sligo through Sligo Bay were guided into port by sea pilots who guided them to Pool Doy were river pilots brought the ship into the quays.’
      • ‘Also, while you walk around your ship, other pilots will give you some short comments, for example ‘Way to go ace’.’
      • ‘He was also a ship's pilot, bringing sailing ships in and out of Fenit.’
      • ‘The four pilots strapped into their ships, and waited for the signal to launch.’
      • ‘Eusi noted that the pilot had shut his ship almost completely down.’
      • ‘So, the pilot of an interceptor ship will usually not start a close combat - he should destroy the target with rockets by taking the first shot.’
      • ‘He had more pressing problems - where were the pilots and their ships?’
      • ‘She had gotten up for a moment to check on the pilot when the ship had started to uncontrollably lurch.’
      • ‘We just need the harbour pilot now, to help Mudder Pratt steer de ship of state.’
      • ‘The squirrel fem that was the command pilot of the second ship did not like this in the least.’
      • ‘The pilot announced as the ship began dodging an unseen enemy.’
      • ‘Built of English oak and Cornish elm, they are traditionally designed and locally built rowing boats originally used to deliver pilots to incoming merchant ships.’
      • ‘After missing two tides because there were no pilots available the coaster Fast Will was allowed to sail for the Trent on Sunday unpiloted, leading another ship also without a pilot.’
      • ‘The word Cybernetics comes from the Greek word kybernotos which means a governor - helmsman, actually, the kybernotos was the pilot of a ship.’
      • ‘As a result data (tides, water depths and weather) to help pilots navigate through the harbour and by shipping companies became inaccessible.’
      • ‘The pilot of this ship was an old friend Mac was all too obviously happy to see.’
      • ‘I believe I was the last man to leave the ship before the pilot.’
      • ‘I have scanned your ship, and it is outfitted with very qualified pilots as well as fairly good shields and torpedo cannons.’
      navigator, helmsman, guide, steersman, coxswain
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A navigational handbook for use at sea.
    3. 1.3informal A jockey.
      ‘many expected him to get the job as Desert Orchid's pilot’
      • ‘I've been her pilot all year, and she's never been like this before.’
      • ‘She will get a three-pound break in the weights for the Hollywood Turf Cup and will be ridden by regular pilot Alex Solis.’
      • ‘The Downptarick pilot won the Grand National aboard Lord Gyllene in 1997 and has also finished second in two Cheltenham Gold Cup races.’
      • ‘Dettori pilots Falbrav for final workout for Hong Kong Cup’
      • ‘Regular pilot Richard Migliore will be aboard Wheelaway, who also is rated at 5-to - 1.’
      • ‘The ten stones turf pilot is the hottest jockey on the island and centre-frame in the up-coming Cheltenham picture.’
      • ‘At that stage, Saturday's pilot Peter Buchanan was being lined up for April, but he now looks set to be on Strong Resolve, with Carrie re-applying for her riding licence.’
    4. 1.4archaic A guide or leader.
  • 2A television or radio programme made to test audience reaction with a view to the production of a series.

    ‘he returns to our TV screens in a pilot for a Channel 4 sitcom’
    • ‘This pilot led to a full radio series, which quickly won a prestigious Sony Award.’
    • ‘A flat-share sitcom that aired as a pilot in Comedy Playhouse and then graduated to a full series.’
    • ‘Because the picture was originally intended as a pilot for cable television, the story lines do not blend together or evolve in a satisfying way.’
    • ‘Mulholland Drive originated as a pilot for an ABC television series.’
    • ‘The film was initially made as a pilot for a television series, which helps explain why the story is so convoluted.’
    • ‘It's more hugely entertaining than any film with something to say has any right to be, and stylistically, it belies its roots as a television series pilot.’
    • ‘Mulholland Drive was originally produced as a pilot for a television series, but it was abandoned because ABC found the plot too obscure.’
    • ‘And if it was a pilot, no series has followed - possibly because all the comedic eggs were put into this one, only fairly amusing basket.’
    • ‘They were responsible for over twenty series ideas that were made into pilots and sold for series production.’
    • ‘This looked like a pilot for a series, but none materialised - at least, not under this title.’
    • ‘BBC News has announced that Rod Liddle is moving on from editing the Today programme to work on a pilot for a new programme about politics for BBC TWO.’
    • ‘The Manchester Comedy Unit will also announce new pilot schemes for television and radio.’
    • ‘The trio has also submitted a pilot to television stations.’
    • ‘Needless to say, I was enthralled to view the pilot of the new series whilst I slumbered last night.’
    • ‘Jim will also be concentrating his time on developing a pilot for a family sitcom for BBC ONE with Carla Lane and on new ideas for a late night series for the channel.’
    • ‘Egypt is part of the BBC's TV Plus pilots, offering audiences a new way of engaging with BBC TV programmes to enhance their viewing experience.’
    • ‘I had once made a TV pilot of the radio programme with him and that had been an enjoyable experience, discussing simple issues like sex and politics with no mention of my childhood.’
    • ‘I can't imagine there was much clamor for failed television pilots from the buying public.’
    • ‘Radio Scotland's comedy writing initiative has produced pilots of three brand new sitcoms.’
    • ‘Three years after this BBC show, Una McLean starred in a sitcom pilot, Did You See Una?’
    trial episode, pilot episode, pilot programme
    View synonyms
  • 3Telecommunications
    often as modifier An unmodulated reference signal transmitted with another signal for the purposes of control or synchronization.

    • ‘The integration time is solved by having two signal components from each satellite, one with data, but one without, known as the pilot signal.’
    • ‘While the tracking sensitivity has been greatly enhanced by having a pilot signal, the extremely long code chosen has made it impractical to use it for acquisition.’
    • ‘The switch position of each antenna element is programmed for optimum reception during, for example, an idle mode which receives a pilot signal.’
    • ‘In an embodiment of the invention, a particular mobile station transmits a pilot strength measurement message to the base station.’
    • ‘Data conversion method and apparatus imbedding pilot signal into converted data and reducing error propagation between datawords’
  • 4

    another term for cowcatcher
    • ‘Since diesel locomotives feature front cabs carrying crew, the pilot must be constructed to prevent the cab from being struck by objects deflected from the road.’
    • ‘Today, people in the railroad industry frown upon the term "cow catcher," but the pilot is still in use.’


  • attributive Done as an experiment or test before being introduced more widely.

    ‘a pilot scheme for training workers’
    • ‘The government has launched an HK $85 million pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of smaller classes in 40 primary schools.’
    • ‘That has been the experience of the pilot sites, of duty prosecutors in stations, that the quality of the cases improves, and that those cases that start will finish in the way that they should.’
    • ‘It is thought likely that the use of cameras across the country will be increased as a result of the experimental pilot scheme, conducted in eight areas of the UK.’
    • ‘These two pilot studies tested new strategies in reperfusion for MI.’
    • ‘This experience makes a pilot scheme unnecessary.’
    • ‘This month the hospital began trialling a pilot scheme to give older patients a quiet window in the afternoons when they can eat their evening meal without interruption.’
    • ‘The idea is that we will disseminate the results to all businesses at a launch event in March by which time we will have worked with service providers and will have tested a pilot scheme.’
    • ‘York Hospital is part of a nationwide pilot scheme exploring ways to implement the Matron's Charter - a national action plan for cleaner hospitals.’
    • ‘This year they announced a big, controversial change to rubbish collection and recycling across the city without any consultation or pilot scheme to test it out.’
    • ‘The changes, if adopted by government, will be implemented over the next 10 years with a four-year pilot scheme to test the diploma.’
    • ‘The service introduced on a pilot basis in Guntur and Tenali will be extended to all towns.’
    • ‘He claimed pilot tests on pay-by-use schemes had shown that people would enjoy lower refuse charges when the system went nationwide in 2005.’
    • ‘Bexley has been chosen by the Home Office for a two-year pilot scheme which could change the face of policing.’
    • ‘Askham Grange wants to build on its progressive reputation by introducing a pilot scheme that would keep mothers and children together until school age.’
    • ‘York City chairman Steve Beck and his fellow heads of Third Division clubs were today discussing plans for the introduction of a pilot salary cap scheme for next season.’
    • ‘The survey was tested in a pilot study using a convenience sample of laboratory managers known to the researchers.’
    • ‘The pilot scheme was introduced in Great Ayton after high numbers of bogus callers and high pressure salesmen were seen there, and is backed by Hambleton Community Safety Partnership.’
    • ‘At a meeting of the children and young people's scrutiny committee yesterday councillors again recommended that the proposals to close the schools be delayed so pilot studies can be evaluated.’
    • ‘The present research was implemented as a pilot study to test feasibility and examine preliminary evidence of program effectiveness.’
    • ‘The glitch was discovered by Lothian and Borders Police in 2002 during pilot tests of tagging devices before they were rolled out across Scotland.’
    experimental, exploratory, trial, test, sample, model, tentative, speculative, preliminary
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Be the pilot of (an aircraft or ship)

    ‘he piloted the helicopter from Paris to Deauville’
    • ‘The ship's assistant captain, who was piloting the boat, fled the scene and attempted suicide at his home in Staten Island.’
    • ‘I piloted the ship in, so now I have to pilot it out again and I am soon exiting the station taking in the visual delight of the sector once more.’
    • ‘What about those of us who are not piloting oil tankers or fighting forest fires, but who wake up groggy after a late night on the town?’
    • ‘The ship was piloted by a Captain John Rouse, a man with fifteen years experience in cargo hauling and a minor in sales, and his daughter Lily.’
    • ‘The company has 80 employees engaged in everything from building the gondolas to piloting the ships, and four $5 million blimps in inventory.’
    • ‘Disarmed and piloting a disarmed ship, the crew of the Excelsior is forced to send out a squadron of the unfamiliar shuttlecraft that now occupy their hangar bay.’
    • ‘Ellis and Morscheck were piloting the aeroplanes through a manoeuvre in which one aircraft rejoins the other five while flying in a formation barrel roll on January 21.’
    • ‘One of Mrs Wilson's biggest regrets was never being able to pilot an aircraft.’
    • ‘Afterward, Dave and Jenna, who had turned out to be an excellent pilot herself, gave their friends a quick tutorial on piloting an aircraft.’
    • ‘A Japanese person piloting an airplane today could easily fly it into a ship, if he were willing to die; the difference today is that no one wants to die for the cause of Japanese imperialism.’
    • ‘In an astounding effort, humans piloting ultralight aircraft taught a novice flock how to migrate from Florida to Wisconsin.’
    • ‘‘I haven't forgotten,’ Voelker said, piloting the ship into the shuttle bay and beginning the landing cycle.’
    • ‘In 1979 he successfully piloted the same helicopter on an open sea rescue mission in gale force winds, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his skill and bravery.’
    • ‘Billy piloted the ship forward towards the pirates, with his own grappler arms extended.’
    • ‘The psychology teacher from Poynton, who has used a wheelchair for almost 20 years after being paralysed in a car crash, has previously parachuted, piloted a light aircraft and plays wheelchair rugby.’
    • ‘At times you really believe you are piloting your ship and are about to dock with a space station.’
    • ‘As Mark piloted the ship out of the Hangar bay, all hands taking cover in case the problem wasn't fixed, Tanj headed back to the engine spaces to see how her end was holding up.’
    • ‘Merlin didn't think twice about her ability to pilot the ship and turned his attention to a navigational scanner.’
    • ‘The second reason was that Sali held a civil aviation certificate which enabled him to pilot any aircraft out of the country.’
    • ‘One of them taught their attendants how to be space police; the other taught their attendants how to pilot ships and fly.’
    fly, be at the controls of, control, handle, manoeuvre, drive, operate, steer, regulate, monitor, direct, captain
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object and adverbial of direction Guide or steer.
      ‘Melissa piloted her through the booking hall’
      • ‘Falconer, who is preparing to pilot his constitutional reform bill through parliament, has committed himself to deciding on a site by the summer.’
      • ‘Larry, we're going to pilot that long-term solution in Jackson, Mississippi, by the end of the month.’
      • ‘A former leader of Aberdeen City Council, Sewel was offered a seat in the Lords in 1995 specifically to pilot the devolution bill through Parliament.’
      • ‘The so-called ‘Overland Astorians’ needed a guide to pilot them through Crow country to the west.’
      • ‘He is helping to pilot a Bill through Parliament calling for an international treaty on the arms trade to be agreed by 2006.’
      • ‘A Parsi, Jamsetji Tata, conceived of it, a Kannadiga, the then Maharaja of Mysore, agreed to provide the land and the Government of India piloted and saw through the whole idea.’
      • ‘Jeremie added as he piloted the bill to eventual passage in the Lower House.’
      • ‘O'Neal successfully piloted a bill through the Legislative Council last Thursday that prohibits anyone from using a name other than the original name of an area in any official capacity.’
      • ‘Home Secretary David Blunkett is currently piloting through measures to crack down on noisy neighbours and loutish youths.’
      • ‘But the great majority of the amendments accepted are those from the minister who is piloting the bill through the House.’
      • ‘Rumbles will be piloting a bill through the Scottish Parliament to set up the Scottish equivalent of the Westminster sleaze watchdog and says Filkin would be ideal for the job.’
      • ‘Despite this Morrison piloted the Bill successfully through Parliament and it became the Road Traffic Act, 1930.’
      • ‘Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael, who piloted the recent legislation to ban fox hunting through Parliament, had been due to address the conference, but failed to attend.’
      • ‘Both played key roles in piloting Merck's badly damaged stock to a relatively smooth emergency landing.’
      • ‘Minister of State Michael Ahern, who is piloting the bill through the Oireachtas, is believed to be considering raising it to e500,000-a move that would remove hundreds of companies from the net.’
      • ‘The Fed wants plenty of time to pilot the economy on its intended course of steady growth and low inflation.’
      • ‘Mr Willmott's last task as political leader of Kennet will be to pilot through the budget for the next financial year.’
      • ‘If approved, they would be piloted through Parliament by finance minister Tom McCabe, although he will face opposition from Labour's Liberal Democrat coalition partners, who favour a local income tax.’
      • ‘Nine CEO David Gyngell has the unenviable task of piloting the faded No. 1 network over the remainder of this year.’
      • ‘Law Minister Moudud Ahmed piloted through parliament the bill for faster trials for cases of serious crimes involving murder, rape, illegal arms and explosives, and narcotics.’
      • ‘They fell to discussing Sedgemore's multitudinous achievements, his thunderous oratory, the life-changing bills he piloted through the Commons.’
      navigate, guide, steer, direct, sail, usher, shepherd, show the way to, lead, conduct, escort, convoy
      View synonyms
  • 2Test (a scheme, project, etc.) before introducing it more widely.

    ‘one-day workshops for part-time staff were piloted in June’
    • ‘Ms Cooper said that so-called e-voting, piloted in Sheffield involving voting by mobile phone text-message or over the Internet, had not produced the same increase in turn-out as postal voting.’
    • ‘With the enthusiastic backing of the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, the project team picked two districts in which to pilot the scheme.’
    • ‘Now the Council is considering submitting a bid for the city to become one of two national pilots pioneering projects to keep the streets gum free.’
    • ‘Now we are piloting a project to provide regular weekly music sessions for children with learning difficulties.’
    • ‘It is also piloting schemes such as breakfast clubs, tuck shops and vending machines with healthy food and bottled water rather than chocolate and crisps.’
    • ‘The council plans to pilot the scheme from March 1, in Eggborough, Whitley, Camblesforth and Carlton.’
    • ‘An important part of piloting the coding scheme will be testing for consistency between coders and, if time permits, intra-coder reliability.’
    • ‘It is described as ‘venture philanthropy’, providing cash to pilot schemes that will be passed over to the Scottish Executive as proven concepts.’
    • ‘Our experience in Enfield where the scheme was piloted was that residents would come up and express their appreciation.’
    • ‘The council is also planning to pilot a scheme in the city's long-stay car parks which will allow users to pay by credit card and avoid having to search for the right change.’
    • ‘When it was first brought in by the then Home Secretary, and now Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, a dozen years ago, it was not unreasonably piloted in the crime black spots, namely the inner cities.’
    • ‘One force which piloted the scheme, the West Midlands, used a form which required 77 pieces of information to be entered by officers about each stop. search news’
    • ‘Thirty schools will be involved in the scheme, 13 in Lancashire, with 24 piloting the scheme and six acting as a control test.’
    • ‘Business Link has piloted a scheme in the Bradford Trident area where entrepreneurs can get loans for up to £5,000 even if they are turned away by the major banks.’
    • ‘The West Yorkshire Volume Crime Unit, one of only seven being piloted across the country, will use the same modus operandi as is currently in place for tackling murder and other ‘serious’ crimes.’
    • ‘Police in Leigh, Tyldesley and Atherton are piloting a scheme in response to a continuing number of complaints about off-road bikers.’
    • ‘Meanwhile Defra is urging farmers to sign up to a scheme piloting a gamma interferon test, which could reduce the time herds are under restriction.’
    • ‘It is an idea based on work done by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations in the United States, who have given permission for their materials to be adapted and piloted in North Bradford.’
    • ‘In a bid to take credit to the customer's door step, HDFC Bank is setting up loan shops through its direct selling agents and has piloted the project in Chennai.’
    • ‘Given the amount of concern and anger which your proposals have generated, why have you refused to pilot the scheme in one area of the city first?’
    test, trial, put to the test, try out, carry out trials on, experiment with, assess, investigate, examine, appraise, evaluate, check out
    View synonyms


Early 16th century (denoting a person who steers a ship): from French pilote, from medieval Latin pilotus, an alteration of pedota, based on Greek pēdon ‘oar’, (plural) ‘rudder’.